Still Life Studies: A Review of Chelsea Rathburn’s Still Life with Mother and Knife

Still Life with Mother and Knife
by Chelsea Rathburn
(LSU Press, 2019, 84 pp. $18.95)

I pre-ordered Chelsea Rathburn’s Still Life with Mother and Knife after reading two of the poems that would be in it and falling in love with the way Rathburn uses words. She lays them naked in front of us like an artist’s model, and we sketch or sculpt to catch them in our minds the best we can. When we see them again, they’ve moved ever so slightly, or we have, and we find some new angle to explore and try to understand.

There Are No Exit Wounds

Where there are no children, there is no sound,
no toys, no stones, no girls, no boys, no rules;
there are no exit wounds on the playground,

no secrets can be spilt from mouths unbound
by oaths of blood and spit and ridicule;
where there are no children, there is no sound

like song, no crowing calls, no laughter drowned
by pupils sharpened into surgeon’s tools.
There are no exit wounds on the playground

and shameful explanations just confound
the comfort sought. Steel swings and slides are cruel
where there are no children. There is no sound,